By now we must have all agreed that the social media is like a nation with millions of citizens all in one room; within reach of one another. Like a dorm room where you find naughty students, respectful ones, dirty ones, clean ones, students from broken homes and those who grew up being bullied.
Now, imagine every one of those with their social histories, perceptions and idiosyncrasies living and breathing within reach of one another. We don’t have to think for too long to imagine the chaos, disagreements, friendships, broken friendships, and everything in between.
Living and acting democratically is fun, most times the freedom feels so good for some of us that it takes us to the realm of the irrational. Therefore, on the social web, we find an opportunity for fun and attention and we latch on to it. As a communication and engagement mechanism, the social media has given us as much as we have asked for; a front terrace for interpersonal conversations. In this case, we do not even have to step onto the front terrace. Rather, we only need to command our dear “qwerty” to pitch in and have our voices heard; or unheard. Whatever the case may be, we are allowed to pitch in our quota in the constant stream of conversations.
Trolling on the social media, in my most basic definition, happens when social media users latch on to published posts to misinform, make controversial, divert attention, bully or widen the depth of engagement through the injection of inflammatory or abusive content. Most often, trolls troll to mock or bully the publisher of a post due to some reasons from disagreement, jealousy, or just for the sake of driving a particular conversation towards a particular direction.
Trolling on the web is a worldwide phenomenon which presents itself in different contexts with the greatest justification for being a troll often cited as “Freedom of speech”, of course. Asides from this justification, trolls could easily be referred to as the “terrorists of the internet”.
How does one spot a troll? Easy! Most times, we don’t even need to be hypersensitive to spot a troll. Trolls generally:
- Refuse to listen to reason as they often seem to have responses pre-planned towards achieving a certain result;
- Readily use inflammatory and derogatory language without even the slightest provocation;
- Make irrational arguments;
- Always ready with blows of responses than one can keep up with due to the ample time they have on their hands;
- Most times, absence of profile pictures or original identities
With trolling on the web, more negativity and divisiveness has prevailed far more than positivity can catch up with. Often, social media influencers encourage trolling. We need to understand that there are times when trolling seems to go with trending topics and if such topics gain traction through the voice of an Influencer who takes a certain (divisive or inflammatory) direction, followers latch on to such and spread the content farther.
For example, during election periods in Nigeria, we find more trolls engaging in divisive and defamatory comments against political leaders, aspirants, and political parties; most of which made headline news and led to more intensive discussions. In entertainment blogs or official accounts of entertainers, you find trolls pitching in to argue against published contents on these platforms which often leads to back and forth on comment sections, with long conversation threads full of negativity and arguments.
So far, trolls seems to be winning the war but not for too long. As long as social media practitioners and “sanitizers of the web” understand the relevance of keeping the social web sane for the larger community, more disciples will continually join “Team Social Good”, while seeing trolling as an aberration.
But for the time being how should we handle internet trolls? Whether as an individual or a social media manager:
- Keep your cool!Never fight back a troll, you won’t win. Trolls fight and argue dirty on the web and remember, their reputation is not at stake (they mostly don’t even have a reputation); yours is
- Let trolls be irrational in their replies and responses, you stay rational, calm and collected in your replies and responses. This will surely frustrate such individuals as they quickly realize you aren’t giving them the fight they are desperately asking for
- You could just ignore them and keep mute. But, to take this third option, you must first assess the situation. If the argument of the troll is in no way damaging or worth responding to, then please by all means ignore. If you do feel ignoring such will give a wrong impression to other followers, do respond strategically and professionally
My last advice is to spoil them with courtesy. Be caring and loving through your use of language. No matter how abusive they come at you, stick to being nice. They will surely back down. Good luck to us all using the social web productively.